Wrongful death and prescription drugs: What you should know

Prescription drug abuse and misuse is a big problem. You only have to watch the news to realize that there's a national concern among government officials, medical professionals and individual communities about the epidemic of prescription drug addictions and deaths that they're seeing.

Who is responsible when someone dies of a prescription drug overdose? Under the law, the answer is not very simple. Here are some possibilities:

The drug manufacturer

Product liability laws may be able to hold drug companies liable for some overdose deaths -- particularly when there's credible information that shows that the drug company knew a prescription they marketed to doctors and patients as non-addictive and safe is not.

Several communities are already pursuing claims against the makers of various opioid drugs for the economic losses they've suffered over prescription drug addiction. It's not a stretch to think that an individual who has lost a close family member to prescription drugs could also do the same.

The prescribing doctor

If there's any indication that the prescribing doctor prescribed too many narcotics (or a combination of drugs that ultimately proved lethal), overlooked signs of opioid addiction, or failed to educate the overdose victim about the dangers of the drug he or she was using, you may have a good basis for a wrongful death claim due to medical malpractice.

The pharmacy that sold the drugs

Product liability laws may again come into play where pharmacies are concerned. Anyone in the chain of distribution of a dangerous product can be held liable for injuries and deaths caused by that product. If a pharmacy ignored the fact that a patient was receiving vast quantities of narcotics in a short period or overlooked a significant interaction between prescriptions, that could also be grounds for a wrongful death claim.

The prescription drug crisis isn't likely to end until victims and their survivors insist on accountability from those who have contributed most to the problem. The best way to do that is by taking steps to enforce your legal rights and press a claim for damages wherever possible.

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